My Response to Brandy’s Critique of classical Calvinism (not Evangelical Calvinism)

Merry Christmas, all! I thought as I have a moment between opening presents, and waiting for the ham to finish up, that I would respond to this comment that a lady named Brandy just made yesterday on my ‘Guest Posts’ page; and unless I highlight it here, nobody will see it. I am thinking (and I am not totally sure) that Brandy somehow came across my blog, saw the name ‘Calvinist’ and then imported all of the usual connotations into what that usually stands for as she offered her critique of Calvinism in her comment (that I am sharing and responding to here).

So let’s hear from Brandy, and how she critiques classical Calvinism based upon her perception of it (her critique does not actually apply to Evangelical Calvinism, which I already alerted her to in that thread). I will respond after her comment.

Merry Christmas!

At this time of the year as I find my thoughts filled with the joy that is the birth of Christ, I can’t help but sometimes wonder how a Calvinist can truly say that Christmas is merry with sincerity? Could one really find delight in the fulfillment of the Calvinists’ God’s detailed plan to bring every person into this world with no ability to accept Him, with no ability to do anything but evil, and then this same God torments forever and ever these depraved people who have no ability to do anything but what they have done? And for the lucky few to whom He “gives” eternal life, He does this by imposing his will on them through no choice of their own, and grants them eternal life only in exchange for a lifetime of servitude. Is there anything joyful in this horrific plan when it is unmasked from all its intellectually sounding words and creeds? Is this Calvinistic UNESCAPABLE sentence of eternal torture really good tidings for the majority of mankind?

I am so thankful that these Calvinistic characteristics do not represent the nature of our loving God. That I can joyfully adore the God of Christmas who provides a gift of eternal life for all mankind; that I can wonderfully proclaim to every person that the Saviour of the world has come and taken away the sins of the entire world! That God is pleading and long-suffering with each human being that each might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. That He enables every single person to receive Him, and his only sincere will is that every human being would accept his free gift. This is the wonderful Christmas story, one that truly offers merriment and joy to all mankind as a free gift with no obligations. A gift that every person has the ability to accept and has to do nothing to earn or keep.

I am speaking plainly here about the doctrine of Calvinism, but I truly love those who are Calvinists and count them as Christian friends just as I do anyone who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. I do believe, however, that it is spiritually beneficial to occasionally shine a light on the disturbing philosophy behind Calvinism. When one strips away all of Calvinism’s fancy creeds and theories and restates them in simple terms, we can clearly see its core theology of a God that torments people forever whom he (God) brought into the world with no ability to do anything different than what they have done. And this was the plan he choose (among the infinite plans he could have implemented) simply because it makes him happy to do this. Surely anyone whose God-given conscience has not been completely seared must find themselves troubled about how a good and holy God could practice these kind of terrors. These attributes stand in stark contrast to the righteousness and goodness which God represents and asks us to follow. They stand in stark contrast to the good tidings of great joy which is the Christmas story.

Some of what Brandy communicates is accurate, but much of it is based upon a reductionism and oversimplification of things. To be sure, what she articulates in her comment has nothing to do with what we have called Evangelical Calvinism. We believe that Jesus has genuinely died for all of humanity, and then the offer of salvation has genuinely and efficaciously been offered to all who will; but we believe this only because all of this effectual salvific reality has been realized in the vicarious and particular humanity of Christ for us. So with that cleared up, we can engage a little further with Brandy’s critique of classical Calvinists.

One thing I take issue with is Brandy’s apparent disdain toward creeds and intellectualism; the kind that she associates with Calvinism. I am not totally sure what she is referring to here since she doesn’t flesh her assertion out there, but my guess is that she is referring to something like the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Canons of Dordt, and maybe other confessions of the Reformed faith. As far as the intellectualism that she refers to, that is pretty much a red herring, since all theological positions (even Brandy’s, whatever her’s is) have some pretty sophisticated philosophical concepts standing behind them (the best approaches are able to utilize the grammar offered by certain philosophical systems and essentially gut them and repurpose them in a way that Christian doctrine and reality is given an intelligible apparatus and grammar that allows for intentional worship and service to God). I think really what Brandy is referring to is an experience[s] she has had with certain Calvinists over the years, and the way that these folks, by way of attitude have communicated Calvinist teaching to her; you know the so called cage-stage Calvinists who get a hold of Calvinist doctrine, and understand it just enough to be dangerous. It seems like this is what Brandy is probably referring to.

Then, Brandy is kicking against double predestination hard; the idea that God predestines some to eternal life (the elect), and others to eternal damnation (the reprobate). In a nuts and bolts kind of way I suppose her critique at this point is pretty spot on. But her critique isn’t really a critique of this system at a material level, she seems to be moving too quick, and triumphantly asserts certain things that I know classical Calvinists have a response to; and I am referring to educated classical Calvinists. That said, I would ultimately agree with Brandy, as far as the problem she notes in regard to the deterministic God. That notwithstanding, Brandy’s solution is not laudable! Brandy essentially offers not even the Arminian position, in regard to so called “free will,” she offers, as she left it, not even semi-Pelagianism, but instead she offers full blown Pelagianism; i.e. the idea that human beings are born with an innate capacity to choose eternal life, or not. My guess is that if Brandy was pressed harder she probably would adopt an Arminian position here.

At the end of the day, Brandy did not even come close to critiquing Evangelical Calvinism, but she did try to critique classical Calvinism. It would be interesting to see how classical Calvinists would respond to Brandy; my guess is that they would claim that Brandy has oversimplified things, and then ask her to offer a more material critique of classically conceived Calvinism.

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15 thoughts on “My Response to Brandy’s Critique of classical Calvinism (not Evangelical Calvinism)

  1. In reading her reply, it reminded me of myself a couple years ago. There’s a whiff of enlightenment, superiority, and of course the pat remarks of “but I love my fellow Calvinists”. You’re damn right it’s full-blown Pelagianism, one that is only good news to the comfortable classes of America.

    I would consider myself Augustinian, but in homage to Augustine’s aid in helping me understand the Apostles. Brandy has a very creaturely view of God, one who is in the same genus of being as you or me. However, if God is He in whom all things live, and move, and have their being, then this can’t be the case. The fact that Brandy can write or think cognitively is not her choice, but in the midst of billions of processes that occur that God sustains.

    Fatalists might posit we’re puppets, but like any good Fatalist, the Divine Mind is merely the prince of the Universe. He is the biggest piece of furniture, but he still belongs to Nature.

    The Author and the Character are working at totally different levels, but where our hope comes in is that the Author, while still the Author, writes Himself in as a Character. Yet even this analogy cannot contain the movements of Man beneath the Providence of the Father.

    But all of the above is only surface level critique. At the bottom, Brandy doesn’t seem to be dealing with the real world, disturbed and corrupted as it is; nor is she is contending with the God of Scripture, who is not mild, but a consuming fire.

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  2. A classical Calvinist might respond are any classical “single predestination” alternative theologies whether Thomist, Lutheran orthodox or Arminianian any better?. Because at the end of the day God (in their theologies) has elected , or foreseen , some to receive eternal life. These schools decline to draw the negative conclusion from their theologies that in the case of those who do not believe this must ultimately be traceable to the divine will, pernission or inactivity. I am not a Barthian, but the strength of the Barthian position it seems to me is the potentially universalist scope of election in Christ to include all. but noting their qualification they are not teaching all will be saved.-though the logic of their doctrine of election is universal salvation-_Ross

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  3. Cal,

    I think Brandy needs to do a better job explaining what she means by the philosophy behind Calvinism.

    But her alternative is more problematic than what she is critiquing, and that is saying a lot!

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  4. Bobby, i agree with you in that she doesn’t speak soundly in attacking Calvinism as “God’s detailed plan to bring every person into this world with no ability to accept Him”

    That was never God’s “plan” but because of our sin we do come into the world with no way on our own to accept Him.

    But she later seems to amend that by stating that “He enables every single person to receive Him, and his only sincere will is that every human being would accept his free gift.” – would you still see this later sentiment as full blown Pelagianism? (not that it is necessarily correct)

    Merry Christmas brother!!

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  5. Hey Steve,

    I would say that the way she left it that it sounds pelagian, and at very best it is semi-pelagian–especially since there is no mention of the Holy Spirit, but just enablement language.

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  6. If I read Brandy’s argument aright, it is–

    (1) To gleefully contemplate the necessity of others’ damnation is abhorrent to God-given sentiments (her second paragraph) and therefore sin.

    (1′) Believing in double predestination as a ground for assurance of one’s own salvation is just such gleeful contemplation and is therefore sin.

    (2) A theology that necessarily occasions sin is necessarily false.

    (3) Believing in double predestination as a ground for assurance of one’s own salvation is necessarily false.

    In fairness, Calvin himself may have been wrestling with this in later editions of the Institutes. If one takes that reading of him, then he, like Brandy, is concerned with (1′).

    The challenge is, not to the way God has chosen to order the economy of salvation, but to the ripples that roll out from the believer’s absolute need for an assurance that requires a sin. Uniquely in Calvin, there is no saving faith without assurance of one’s own perseverance, and it is to get such assurance that ‘Calvinists’ have invested centuries of effort in constructing schemes for the economy of salvation with stacks of decrees, multiple covenants, etc. The alternate road forks.

    One could believe with Calvin that assurance is truly necessary to justification by Christ. To meet the challenge, one then presents the economy of salvation such that damnation is bracketed out of the believer’s view, so that the assurance is kept, but the implicit occasion of sin is evaded, perhaps. Since in it, the individual believer is not implicitly willing the damnation of others in order to secure assurance that he himself has been saved, those on this path appear to be immune to the challenge. That is the path taken by Amyrauldianism, Arminianism, English hypothetical universalism, and many Anglicans. Its critics object to the bracket.

    Or one could, pace Calvin, accept that implicit faith in Christ is sufficient for justification. After all, what in the economy of salvation itself requires the individual believer to contemplate his individual salvation from a ‘view from nowhere’ outside of it? On that path, we meet St Augustine himself, Luther, Lutheran orthodoxy, and many other Anglicans, etc. Although paradigmatically Protestant, this approach gives no encouragement to the individualism that is so strongly marked in the full-blown Calvinist systems. Indeed, it permits some plainly catholic churches, which some proud spirits will not tolerate whatever the cost.

    We have seen Brandy’s challenge to the mere possibility of a salvation in alienation from others in another form yesterday. In a Maximian view, nobody looks more like Pelagius than a system-happy, individualistic ‘Calvinist.’ And yet, as we see, one need not embrace that alienation to embrace the Reformation.

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  7. Tis, true, Bowman … no one needs to embrace this alienation, even in the Reformed tradition. But it is there for most Calvinists, viz. the idea that there is only assurance of salvation by way of positing that while others might be reprobate, I as a good Calvinist am surely one of the elect for whom Christ died.

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  8. Agreed. Brandy speaks for a huge number of discerning Christians. But the Reformed tradition plainly has the resources to be more, eg EC 😀 Some reworking is needed that conserves the evangelical hope that is also in the best of it.

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  9. I haven’t been active on blogs over Christmas but now that Christmas is past I’ve had a chance to catch up. On the question of the Reformed doctrine of predestination and reprobation I really can’t do better than the Canons of Dordt which, despite their reputation, are wonderfully warm and pastoral. I apologize for the length of the post.

    Canons of Dordt
    First Head of Doctrine
    Divine Election and Reprobation

    Article 1
    As all men have sinned in Adam[1], lie under the curse, and are deserving of eternal death,[2] God would have done no injustice by leaving them all to perish and delivering them over to condemnation on account of sin,[3] according to the words of the apostle: “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God” (Rom 3:19). And: “for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). And: “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23).

    [1] Rom 5:12; [2] Rom 6:23; [3] Eph 2:1-3

    Article 2
    But in this the love of God was manifested, that He “sent His only begotten Son into the world, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (1 Jn 4:9; Jn 3:16).

    Article 3
    And that men may be brought to believe, God mercifully sends the messengers of these most joyful tidings[1] to whom He will and at what time He pleases; by whose ministry men are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified.[2] “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they are sent?” (Rom 10:14-15).

    [1] Isa 52:7; Rom 10:14-17; [2] I Cor 1:23-24

    Article 4
    The wrath of God abides upon those who believe not this gospel.[1] But such as receive it and embrace Jesus the Savior by a true and living faith[3] are by Him delivered from the wrath of God and from destruction, and have the gift of eternal life conferred upon them.[3]

    [1] Jn 3:36; Rom 1:18, 2:5; [2] Jn 1:12-13; [3] Rom 10:9

    Article 5
    The cause or guilt of this unbelief as well as of all other sins is no way in God,[1] but in man himself;[2] whereas faith in Jesus Christ and salvation through Him is the free gift of God, as it is written: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). Likewise: “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him…” (Php 1:29).

    [1] Jas 1:13, 17; 1 Jn 1:5; [2] Heb 4:6

    Article 6
    That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive it, proceeds from God’s eternal decree.[1] “Known to God from eternity are all His works” (Acts 15:18). “Who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11). According to which decree He graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe; while He leaves the non-elect in His just judgment to their own wickedness and obstinacy.[2] And herein is especially displayed the profound, the merciful, and at the same time the righteous discrimination between men equally involved in ruin; or that decree of election and reprobation, revealed in the Word of God, which, though men of perverse, impure, and unstable minds wrest it to their own destruction, yet to holy and pious souls affords unspeakable consolation.

    [1] Rom 9:10-15; [2] 1 Pt 2:8

    Article 7
    Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world,[1] He has out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His own will,[2] chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault from their primitive state of uprightness into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom He from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect and the foundation of salvation. This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God has decreed to give to Christ to be saved by Him,[3] and effectually to call[4] and draw them[5] to His communion by His Word and Spirit; to bestow upon them true faith, justification, and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of His Son,[6] finally to glorify them[7] for the demonstration of His mercy, and for the praise of the riches of His glorious grace; as it is written: “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him, in love having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He bestowed grace upon us in the Beloved” (Eph 1:4-6). And elsewhere: “Whom He predestined, these He also called, and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Rom 8:30).

    [1] Eph 1:4; [2] Eph 1:11; [3] Jn 17:2; [4] 1 Cor 1:9; [5] Jn 6:37, 44; [6] Jn 17:12; [7] Jn 17:24

    Article 8
    There are not various decrees of election, but one and the same decree respecting all those who shall be saved,[1] both under the Old[2] and New Testament;[3] since the Scripture declares the good pleasure, purpose, and counsel of the divine will to be one, according to which He has chosen us from eternity, both to grace and to glory, to salvation and to the way of salvation, which He has ordained that we should walk therein.

    [1] Rom 8:28-30; [2] Dt 7:7, 9:6; [3] Eph 1:4-5, 2:10

    Article 9
    This election was not founded upon foreseen faith and the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality or disposition in man, as the prerequisite, cause, or condition on which it depended; but men are chosen to faith and to the obedience of faith, holiness, etc.[1] Therefore election is the fountain of every saving good, from which proceed faith, holiness, and the other gifts of salvation, and finally eternal life itself, as its fruits and effects, according to the testimony of the apostle: “He chose us [not because we were, but]…that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph 1:4).

    [1] Rom 8:29-30; Eph 2:9-10, 5:25-29

    Article 10
    The good pleasure of God is the sole cause of this gracious election; which does not consist herein that out of all possible qualities and actions of men God has chosen some as a condition of salvation, but that He was pleased out of the common mass of sinners to adopt some certain persons[1] as a peculiar people to Himself, as it is written: “For the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil…it was said to her [namely, to Rebekah], ‘the elder shall serve the younger.’ Even as it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated'” (Rom 9:11-13).2 “And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).

    [1] Eph 1:4-11; 2 Gen 25:23; Mal 1:2-3

    Article 11
    And as God Himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient, and omnipotent, so the election made by Him can neither be interrupted nor changed, recalled, or annulled;[1] neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number diminished.[2]

    [1] Rom 8:29-30; [2] Jn 6:37, 10:28

    Article 12
    The elect in due time, though in various degrees and in different measures, attain the assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election, not by inquisitively prying into the secret and deep things of God,[1] but by observing in themselves with a spiritual joy and holy pleasure[2] the infallible fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God, such as, a true faith in Christ,[3] filial fear of God,[4] a godly sorrow for sin,[5] a hungering and thirsting after righteousness,[6] etc.

    [1] Dt 29:29; [2] Rom 4:18-5:2, 5; [3] 1 Cor 2:10-11; [4] 2 Cor 13:5; [5] 2 Cor 7:10; [6] Mt 5:6

    Article 13
    The sense and certainty of this election afford to the children of God additional matter for daily humiliation before Him, for adoring the depth of His mercies, for cleansing themselves,[1] and rendering grateful returns of ardent love to Him who first manifested so great love towards them.[2] The consideration of this doctrine of election is so far from encouraging remissness in the observance of the divine commands or from sinking men in carnal security, that these, in the just judgment of God, are the usual effects of rash presumption or of idle and carelessness with the grace of election, in those who refuse to walk in the ways of the elect.

    [1] 1 Jn 3:3, 7-10; [2] 1 Jn 4:19

    Article 14
    As the doctrine of divine election by the most wise counsel of God was declared by the prophets, by Christ Himself, and by the apostles, and is clearly revealed in the Scriptures both of the Old and the New Testament, so it is still to be published in due time and place in the Church of God,[1] for which it was peculiarly designed, provided it be done with reverence, in the spirit of discretion and piety,[2] for the glory of God’s most holy Name,[3] and for enlivening and comforting His people,[4] without vainly attempting to investigate the secret ways of the Most High.[5]

    [1] Acts 20:27; [2] Rom 12:3; [3] Rom 11:33-36; [4] Heb 6:17-18; [5] Dt 29:29; Job 36:23-26; 1 Cor 4:6

    Article 15
    What peculiarly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election is the express testimony of sacred Scripture that not all, but some only, are elected,[1] while others are passed by in the eternal decree; whom God, out of His sovereign,[2] most just, irreprehensible, and unchangeable good pleasure, has decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves,[3] and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but, permitting them in His just judgment to follow their own ways,[4] at last, for the declaration of His justice, to condemn and punish them forever, not only on account of their unbelief, but also for all their other sins. And this is the decree of reprobation, which by no means makes God the Author of sin (the very thought of which is blasphemy), but declares Him to be an awful, irreprehensible, and righteous Judge and Avenger thereof.

    [1] Rom 9:6; [2] Rom 9:10-23; [3] Rom 9:22; 1 Pt 2:8; [4] Acts 14:16

    Article 16
    Those in whom a living faith in Christ,[1] and assured confidence of soul, peace of conscience, an earnest endeavor after filial obedience,[2] a glorying in God through Christ,[3] is not as yet strongly felt, and who nevertheless make use of the means which God has appointed for working these graces in us, ought not to be alarmed at the mention of reprobation, nor to rank themselves among the reprobate, but diligently to persevere in the use of means, and with ardent desires devoutly and humbly to wait for a season of richer grace. Much less cause to be terrified by the doctrine of reprobation have they who, though they seriously desire to be turned to God, to please Him only, and to be delivered from the body of death,[4] cannot yet reach that measure of holiness and faith to which they aspire;[5] since a merciful God has promised that He will not quench the smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed.[6] But this doctrine is justly terrible[7] to those who, regardless of God and of the Savior Jesus Christ, have wholly given themselves up to the cares of the world[8] and the pleasures of the flesh, so long as they are not seriously converted to God.

    [1] Jas 2:26; [2] 2 Cor 1:12; [3] Rom 5:11; Php 3:3; [4] Rom 7:24; [5] Rom 7:13-23; [6] Isa 42:3; Mt 12:20; [7] Heb 12:29; [8] Mt 13:22

    Article 17
    Since we are to judge of the will of God from His Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy,[1] not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they together with the parents are comprehended, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy.[2]

    [1] 1 Cor 7:14; [2] Gen 17:7; Acts 2:39

    Article 18
    To those who murmur at the free grace of election and the just severity of reprobation we answer with the apostle: “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?” (Rom 9:20),[1] and quote the language of our Savior: “Is it not lawful for Me to do what I wish with My own things?” (Mt 20:15). And therefore, with holy adoration of these mysteries, we exclaim in the words of the apostle: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid unto him again?’ For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever! Amen.” (Rom 11:33-36).

    [1] Job 34:34-37

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  10. Merry Christmas, Nathanael!

    To put it mildly, I doubt that Brandy would find these canons “wonderfully warm and pastoral,” although that was certainly their intent.

    In retrospect, it is unfortunate that so much in them ultimately depends on a construal of a single Greek particle that we know to be implausible in itself and less probable than another that is at least as traditional.*

    What does ‘sola scriptura’ mean if in the C21 we keep citing stuff from the C17 with wrong exegesis from the C5? St Augustine had an excuse– he barely knew Greek. What is ours?

    * “From purely grammatical considerations it is impossible to interpret eph’ho as a reference to any word other than thanatos. Each time the grammatical construction of the preposition epi with the dative is used by Paul, it is always used as a relative pronoun which modifies a preceding noun or phrase. To make an exception in Romans 5:12 by making St. Paul use the wrong Greek expression to express the idea, “because,” is to beg the issue. The correct interpretation of this passage, both grammatically and exegetically, can be supplied only when eph’ho is understood to modify thanatos –kai houtos eis pantas anthropous ho thanatos dielthen eph’ho (thanato) pantes hemarton–“because of which” (death), or “on the basis of which” (death), or “for which (death) all have sinned.” Satan, being himself the principle of sin, through death and corruption involves all of humanity and creation in sin and death. Thus, to be under the power of death according to Paul is to be a slave to the devil and a sinner, because of the inability of the flesh to live according to the law of God, which is selfless love.” –John Romanides

    http://www.romanity.org/htm/rom.10.en.original_sin_according_to_st._paul.01.htm

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  11. I don’t really see how the Canons of Dordt help the case. They originated as polemical pieces in response to the Remonstrants. I would think sharing those would only confirm Brandy’s angst! Pious language is just that. When we get into material reflection and take things to their logical ends, that’s where concern comes in.

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  12. I’m not buying it, but I do owe Nathanael some glad-hearted thanks.

    In posting his canons, he reminded me of the pleasant hours I spent long ago the first time I found them. Some of my favorite Stuart divines were in Dordt debating and drafting those canons. Given the limits of their knowledge, and the risks of any failure to agree, it was not easy for me to fault the synod’s work. Perhaps it is only idle time travel, but I do sometimes return to unlatch the shutters and listen to the traffic in the streets of their world.

    A C17 Brandy among the Remonstrants would have made the same arguments then that our C21 Brandy has made to us today. I wonder how they sounded when the Reformed movement was still young.

    Did they sound like arguments of an unruly heart crashing against a consistent head? Unlike most such symbols, the canons imply a surprising amount about the hearts of their challengers. They are a sentimental in a way that the canons of 3 Constantinople on dyothelitism are not, despite the inherent pathos of arguments over eg the number of wills that Christ had in the Garden of Gethsemane. The sentimentalism of Dordt can seem “wonderfully warm and pastoral” to me, as it does to Nathanael. Or it can sound defensive and manipulative.

    Once she heard him through, I think that a Brandy at Dordt would have recognized a kindred spirit in, say, John Davenant. Alas, the learned bishop did not know what we know today about the false exegetical constraints within which he worked. If he had known, what then might his head have argued to her heart ?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Davenant

    http://www.prdl.org/author_view.php?a_id=2316

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